In sub-Saharan Africa two-thirds of the population depend on small-scale, rain-fed farming to survive. The contribution of smallholder farmers to food security across this vast region is critical.
Good harvests are vital to the livelihoods and wellbeing of millions of people, yet climatic conditions that vary each year make farmers vulnerable to the threat of failed harvests. Climate variability and change now means that food security across sub-Saharan Africa is increasingly fragile.
Critical farming and household decisions depend on the weather, such as the start of rainy seasons and timing of dry spells. However, despite this farmers currently receive minimal or no local climatic data. Where it is available, little is done to contextualise its meaning for agricultural planning.
Historical data recorded by local weather stations often only exists in paper form and is not stored appropriately, and is now at an increasing risk of being lost forever. Smallholder farmers therefore often lack the necessary information on local climate and the skills to adapt to variable weather patterns and prevent poor harvests, which can have disastrous health, social and economic impacts.
In response, Reading has developed a new, sustainable initiative that enables smallholder farmers to develop the skills they need to manage climate risks and adapt their farming practices accordingly.
Your support can continue to help farmers all across the world who are vulnerable to the effects of climate variability and change.
Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture (PICSA) is an approach that combines local climate, crop, livestock and livelihood information with participatory planning and decision making tools that farmers can use to decide the best farming and livelihood options for them.
Using R-Instat (a statistical package developed by Reading and partners in Africa) historical climate and weather information is put into simple graphs. The information is presented for use by groups of smallholder farmers, who are then trained to read and interpret the data by local PICSA staff.
Farmers combine this new and enhanced climate information with their own experiences to assess the variability of local climatic patterns amongst other factors, and consider their implications for crop and livestock production. Better informed decision making is enabling farmers to manage risk and explore new farming practices that are more resilient to variable climatic conditions. This participatory grassroots approach makes PICSA unique when compared to other climate service models, and works with farmers to develop their own skills instead of dictating to them what their best options are.
The PICSA approach has been piloted in nine countries and then implemented at a large scale in three, and is now recognised by major international organisations, such as the UN World Food Programme and the Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security Program, which are now implementing PICSA.
The success of PICSA has led to intense interest in developing the initiative on an increased scale, and the need to develop the programme further is critical. In Ghana, 97% of PICSA-trained farmers have made changes to their farming practices with their increased knowledge, which is helping to increase food production and income and demonstrates that the approach is already making a huge difference.
PICSA is ready for expansion in 3 key areas:
We need your donations to increase PICSA's outreach
Your help will develop PICSA to its full potential and:
IMAGINE the possibilities. Together we can make it happen.
Lack of reliable information can leave farmers vulnerable to failed harvests, often leading to severe consequences for their livelihoods and wellbeing
In Ghana, 97% of PICSA trained farmers have made changes to their farming practices
Since the launch of pilot operations in 2013, PICSA has so far reached around 30,000 small-scale farmers in Ghana, Tanzania and Malawi
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W M Childs
First Vice-Chancellor, 1926-29